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Gujarat election proved that Corruption-free governance pays

By: K Parthasarathi
Jan-18-2008
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The thumping victory of Narendra Modi against the very strong campaign mounted by Congress in particular and UPA in general set me thinking whether the voters were influenced largely by the integrity and honesty of the Chief Minister and the consequent good governance with the benefits flowing to the people unhindered. Judged by the results they have obviously relegated the shrill cries of religion based issues to the back ground. The people know that a clean administration without corruption would automatically ensure that a larger percentage of government spending would reach the ultimate destination and result in greater benefits to ordinary people. This is what has happened in Gujarat. This singular and good feature of Modi’s government got drowned amidst the noise over "merchants of death’. Honesty in administration is a rare virtue found these days only in very few politicians in the country. Narendra Modi is like an oasis in the vast desert of venality and nepotism. It was heartening to learn that he kept at bay even the few from his own party and the sister organizations who possibly wanted to make easy money.

In most places the leaders are found to be less than honest leading to the prevalence of this malady among the politicians and officials at all levels. The pity is that this menace has spread to all sections of the society and is not limited to the government departments alone. Rajiv Gandhi was aware of this when he said only seventeen paisa in a rupee reached the final destination with the balance siphoned off midway but he could do little to wipe out this curse. There have been a few impeccable PMs and CM of high rectitude in the past including the current Prime Minister on whom no personal allegations of corrupt practices can be laid. Yet sadly all of them tolerated corruption around them not for the reason such flaws are acceptable to them but due to political compulsions. As a result they have done very little to stem the rot. Once the leaders below and the officials know that the men at the helm turn a blind eye to this vice, things start worsening. Over a period of time nothing gets done unless money changes hands in every aspect of life that affects the common man. The costs rise, the work is shoddy and repetitive, the people are unhappy and troubled and the government loses credibility.

In America there is no greasing of some one’s palms for getting ordinary day to day things done. Police, government and county officials, educational institutions are all free from this malaise. There can be poor service but there is no expectation of any illegal gratification. There can be some cases of dishonesty at very high political levels but the people and the media are very alert and vigilant. The erring politicians however big they may be when caught get punished mercilessly and quickly by the courts. There also political parties thrive on campaign donations by corporate houses but there is no harassment of ordinary individuals to part with their hard earned money at every turn for personal or political purposes. Corruption in India has been sort of institutionalized providing a fertile ground for criminal elements, mafia groups, politicians from lowest level, bureaucracy from top to bottom, to join in this combined loot. It has assumed serious proportions in some states where the men at the helm themselves are dishonest. Little wonder India ranks very high in the list of corrupt countries as per the survey of Transparency International India. We may be praised as a knowledge power and for our growing economy but are considered a highly corrupt nation and rank low in esteem.

Despite the gloomy picture there are pockets like Gujarat and a couple of other states where the Chief Ministers are men of probity and uprightness providing clean and good governance. Nitish Kumar’s name comes up in the mind in this great effort to provide a clean government in a state that was notorious for bribery and favouritism. Navin Patnaik is another name in this category endeavouring to give clean administration. One can be sure that like Modi, they would have earned the gratitude of the common man in the state, making it easy to get their support at the time of elections. The voters in these states I am sure will not fall a prey to the alluring promises of opponents or irrelevant accusations .Anti-incumbency would not be a factor for the CMs to worry about. Modi’s convincing victory against all odds and the stiff opposition from the major partner of UPA is a clear proof that people vote for good governance that gives no quarter for corruption. The good that the government does to the poor and weaker sections of the society is the only litmus test used for evaluating the rulers.

Elections have become a very expensive affair. Only very rich men can stand for election even at the municipal level, let alone, an assembly or Parliament. Political parties are compelled to seek contributions giving room for a quid pro quo.Political donations are all not properly accounted with lot of swindling at all levels. This is the nidus of all the evils like corruption and nepotism. Government bearing the cost of election expenses with a strict control on political party or third party spending is bound to reduce the need for corruption for political purposes. This is not getting the attention that is due to it as political parties are not keen about such a measure. The RTI Act, a very good tool, is not implemented with sincerity by the government officials. The cost of preferring appeal for information under RTI Act should be low. Keeping it high is a barrier in its proper implementation. If this measure is implemented and enforced strictly with the pain of heavy penalty on the errant officials, corrupt practices would come down.

Gujarat elections have for the first time proved that honesty and sincerity in governance pays rich dividends and is an antidote to anti-incumbency factor. It is hoped that this would spur all the political parties to choose good men of character for legislature though it would be difficult at one go. Never the less the effort should be there to move in that direction. There is also a lesson for all CMs and ministers that corrupt free administration adds worth to their names ensuring their return after every election.


K Parthasarathi

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